Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Delhi visit this week is an opportunity to strengthen Nepal-India ties, and take steps that could benefit both neighbours.
In Delhi, Dahal must clearly put forth Nepal’s concerns, but avoid mixing our internal affairs with bilateral issues. Amending the Constitution to address Madhesi demands, most importantly redrawing boundaries of federal provinces, is a domestic affair, and it needs to be addressed internally. Dahal must not involve India in deciding when and how to do it.
Dahal looked anxious before the visit, and was promising to register a bill in the Parliament to amend the Constitution before embarking on a four-day visit to the South. It does not solve the problem it instead blurs the line on what internal matters are.
Dahal must focus on bilateral agendas, especially points that were previously agreed upon but not implemented. Nepal and India have failed to prepare a joint Detailed Project Report of Pancheswor Multipurpose Project even after inking a deal on it. Expediting the construction of the Tarai Feed road is discussed every time Nepal’s PM visits India, but it remains neglected.
There is a growing perception that India just wants to sit on hydropower development projects in Nepal to keep its neighbour poor. India must clear this perception by beginning hydropower and other development projects that it has agreed to build in Nepal. Dahal must also raise issues of inundation and encroachment by India, but must not promise anything on the contract of the Kathmandu-Tarai fast track to any Indian company.
Dahal must not sign new agreements without proper groundwork, and it is equally important for the ruling Maoist-NC coalition to win the main opposition UML’s trust on this matter. If he signs new deals imposed upon him without understanding their nitty-gritties they will be disastrous for the country.
Dahal’s Maoist party shares a bittersweet relationship with India. He is not visiting India as the CPN (Maoist-Centre) Chair, but as Nepal’s Executive Head. He must not be thinking of what his party will gain or lose from his visit. As the PM of a sovereign nation, he must show confidence, and raise issues of national interest with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.